27 September 2016

Review: ONLY DAUGHTER, Anna Snoekstra

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 614 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (September 1, 2016)
  • Publication Date: August 22, 2016
  • Sold by: Harlequin Australia
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01E83Q6HK
Synopsis (Amazon)

In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.  

She'd been enjoying her teenage summer break: working at a fast-food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen—blood in the bed, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched—though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come.

Eleven years later she is replaced. 

A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec. 
Soon the imposter is living Bec's life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends' names. Playing with her twin brothers.
But Bec's welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the imposter dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter—and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.
As the pretender walks in Rebecca’s shoes, she realises that whoever is responsible for Bec’s disappearance is still in her life.

In this chilling psychological thriller, one woman’s dark past becomes another’s deadly future.

My Take

When our unnamed central character decides to impersonate Bec Winter who has been missing from Canberra for 11 years, she means to do it for only a few days, and then to disappear. However she finds that plan is not so easy to carry out. For a start the police are reluctant to release her to  Bec Winter's parents. When they finally allow her to go "home" they ask her to avoid publicity and the detective in charge of the investigation visits her every day trying to jog in her memory details of her original "abduction".

The longer she stays the closer she gets to working out what actually happened on the day Bec disappeared. The reader is assisted by narrative about what actually happened to Bec in 2003, but not everything is revealed. There are several plausible red herrings about who might have been responsible for Bec's disappearance.

We also become aware that our impersonator has a history which she is not anxious to be revealed.

A rather tangled but interestingly worked plot, and a relatively quick read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Author website
Anna Snoekstra was born in Canberra, Australia to two civil servants. At the age of seventeen she decided to avoid a full time job and a steady wage to move to Melbourne and become a writer. She studied Creative Writing and Cinema at The University of Melbourne, followed by Screenwriting at RMIT University.
After finishing university, Anna wrote for independent films and fringe theatre, and directed music videos. During this time, she worked as a cheesemonger, a waitress, a barista, a nanny, a receptionist, a cinema attendant and a film reviewer.
Anna now lives with her husband, cat and two housemates and works full time writing.

26 September 2016

Review: I'M TRAVELLING ALONE, Samuel Bjork

  • first published in English 2015
  • translated from Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund
  • ISBN 978-0-857-52251-1
  • 474 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

International bestseller Samuel Bjork makes his US debut, a chilling and fast-paced thriller in which two detectives must hunt down a vengeful killer--and uncover the secret that ties each of them to the crime

A six-year-old girl is found in the Norwegian countryside, hanging lifeless from a tree and dressed in strange doll's clothes. Around her neck is a sign that says "I'm traveling alone."

A special homicide unit in Oslo re-opens with veteran police investigator Holger Munch at the helm. Holger's first step is to persuade the brilliant but haunted investigator Mia Kruger, who has been living on an isolated island, overcome by memories of her past. When Mia views a photograph of the crime scene and spots the number "1" carved into the dead girl's fingernail, she knows this is only the beginning. Could this killer have something to do with a missing child, abducted six years ago and never found, or with the reclusive religious community hidden in the nearby woods?

Mia returns to duty to track down a revenge-driven and ruthlessly intelligent killer. But when Munch's own six-year-old granddaughter goes missing, Mia realizes that the killer's sinister game is personal, and I'm Traveling Alone races to an explosive--and shocking--conclusion.

My Take

This is another of those novels to come out of Scandinavia that tries very hard to convince the reader that you have missed out on earlier titles in a series. Perhaps we have, but it appears to me that this title was first published in Norwegian in 2013 and then translated into English in 2015. It is actually the first of two books in the Mia and Munch series. But we are certainly told that Mia and Munch have "history", and references are made to incidents that occurred in the previous year.

This tactic seems to be becoming more common recently and makes you wonder whether some of these writers are actually breaking into their own streams of consciousness, or whether they have unpublished manuscripts depicting earlier events, and that eventually they will publish these retrospectively.

The plot is macabre and won't appeal to all. Six year old girls disappear and are then found in strange places dressed in doll's clothes. Part of the puzzle is to discover who these actions are directed at and flashes of intuition from Mia Kruger provide the answer.


Mia Kruger appears in character to be very similar to Stiegg Larsen's creation Lisbeth Solander although perhaps not as autistic.

In the long run this plot appears to have a bit of everything, almost a pot pourri of what can be found in Scandinavian crime fiction.

My rating: 4.i

About the author
Samuel Bjork is the pen name of Norwegian novelist, playwright and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Øien. 

Review: HESTER & HARRIET, Hilary Spiers

  • first published 2015
  • ISBN 978-1-92526-641-2
  • this edition published by www.allenandunwin.com
  • 395 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Hester and Harriet are reluctantly driving to visit relatives on Christmas Day when they come across a young woman hiding with her baby in a bus shelter.

Seeing the perfect excuse for returning to their own warm hearth, the sisters insist on bringing Daria and Milo home with them. But with the arrival of a sinister stranger looking for a girl with a baby, Hester and Harriet's carefully crafted peace and quiet quickly begins to fall apart....

My Take

In an "about the author" at the end of this novel we are told that Hilary Spiers enjoys giving a voice to ordinary women in sometimes extraordinary circumstances. 

This certainly depicted in this novel, but I found myself wondering if I would have acted as Hester and Harriet did in the same circumstances. On Christmas Eve, on their way out to dinner, they discover a young girl with her baby hiding in a nearby bus shelter. They take Daria and her baby home with them for Christmas. After Christmas Day their young nephew Ben turns up looking for shelter.

Daria turns out to have overstayed her visa and it takes some persuading to get her to go to the police to report her circumstances. In addition it appears that here are people looking for Daria, including a private detective and the father of her baby. Meanwhile other things are happening in the village, and a large cannabis crop attracts attention.

I am not sure how I got a recommendation to read this novel. It is certainly at the extreme edge of crime fiction and really rather like a village cozy. There are crimes committed but they are not really central to the action. But the characterisation is good, and the scenarios quite believable.

In the long run an enjoyable read with good human interest and modern themes.

My Rating: 4.4

25 September 2016

Review: MR JELLY'S BUSINESS, Arthur Upfield - audio book

  • #4 in the Napoleon Bonaparte series
  • originally published 1937
  • aka MURDER DOWN UNDER
  • this edition unabridged audiobook
  • Narrated by Peter Hosking
  • length 7 hours 27 minutes
  • available at Audible.com
 Synopsis (Audible.com)

Mr. Jelly's Business is one of the finest of Arthur Upfield's many distinguished stories about the career of Detective Inspector Napoleon ("Bony") Bonaparte.

It takes Bony to the West Australian town of Burracoppin to investigate the disappearance of George Loftus, whose car was found wrecked near the longest fence in the world, the 1,500 mile Rabbit Fence. He meets Loftus's wife, who is anything but grief-stricken at her husband's disappearance; Loftus's hired man, singularly reticent about his own past history; and many of Burracoppin's numerous gossips. Later he encounters the mysterious Mr. Jelly, whose business causes his charming daughters great anxiety.

The double question of Loftus' disappearance and Mr. Jelly's business taxes Bony's well-known powers of observation and deduction to the utmost, until the two problems are simultaneously solved.
As anyone who knows Arthur Upfield's other work would expect, Mr. Jelly's Business is more than a story of crime and detection: It also offers an admirable picture of life in West Australia's wheat country

My Take

Bony takes on the case of George Loftus' disappearance as a favour to a friend, and gets a job working on the Rabbit Proof Fence so he can keep the locals under observation and work out what has happened to Loftus. Mr Jelly is convinced that Loftus has been murdered by his wife and her lover, but he is surrounded by his own mystery. He gets telegrams that summon him to Perth for at least a week at a time. Given his personal hobby that involves keeping extensive files on murderers, Mr Jelly's daughters are convinced that his job must be something to be ashamed of. Bony promises Mr Jelly's daughters that he will find out what their father does during his absences.

This novel is filled with Upfield's own philosophy about what creates murderers. We also find out a lot about aboriginal tracking methods, as well as more information about Bony's family background.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES
4.4, THE BATTLING PROPHET 

Review: MR JELLY'S BUSINESS, Arthur Upfield - audio book

  • #4 in the Napoleon Bonaparte series
  • originally published 1937
  • aka MURDER DOWN UNDER
  • this edition unabridged audiobook
  • Narrated by Peter Hosking
  • length 7 hours 27 minutes
  • available at Audible.com
 Synopsis (Audible.com)

Mr. Jelly's Business is one of the finest of Arthur Upfield's many distinguished stories about the career of Detective Inspector Napoleon ("Bony") Bonaparte.

It takes Bony to the West Australian town of Burracoppin to investigate the disappearance of George Loftus, whose car was found wrecked near the longest fence in the world, the 1,500 mile Rabbit Fence. He meets Loftus's wife, who is anything but grief-stricken at her husband's disappearance; Loftus's hired man, singularly reticent about his own past history; and many of Burracoppin's numerous gossips. Later he encounters the mysterious Mr. Jelly, whose business causes his charming daughters great anxiety.

The double question of Loftus' disappearance and Mr. Jelly's business taxes Bony's well-known powers of observation and deduction to the utmost, until the two problems are simultaneously solved.
As anyone who knows Arthur Upfield's other work would expect, Mr. Jelly's Business is more than a story of crime and detection: It also offers an admirable picture of life in West Australia's wheat country

My Take

Bony takes on the case of George Loftus' disappearance as a favour to a friend, and gets a job working on the Rabbit Proof Fence so he can keep the locals under observation and work out what has happened to Loftus. Mr Jelly is convinced that Loftus has been murdered by his wife and her lover, but he is surrounded by his own mystery. He gets telegrams that summon him to Perth for at least a week at a time. Given his personal hobby that involves keeping extensive files on murderers, Mr Jelly's daughters are convinced that his job must be something to be ashamed of. Bony promises Mr Jelly's daughters that he will find out what their father does during his absences.

This novel is filled with Upfield's own philosophy about what creates murderers. We also find out a lot about aboriginal tracking methods, as well as more information about Bony's family background.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES
4.4, THE BATTLING PROPHET 

Review: MR JELLY'S BUSINESS, Arthur Upfield - audio book

  • #4 in the Napoleon Bonaparte series
  • originally published 1937
  • aka MURDER DOWN UNDER
  • this edition unabridged audiobook
  • Narrated by Peter Hosking
  • length 7 hours 27 minutes
  • available at Audible.com
 Synopsis (Audible.com)

Mr. Jelly's Business is one of the finest of Arthur Upfield's many distinguished stories about the career of Detective Inspector Napoleon ("Bony") Bonaparte.

It takes Bony to the West Australian town of Burracoppin to investigate the disappearance of George Loftus, whose car was found wrecked near the longest fence in the world, the 1,500 mile Rabbit Fence. He meets Loftus's wife, who is anything but grief-stricken at her husband's disappearance; Loftus's hired man, singularly reticent about his own past history; and many of Burracoppin's numerous gossips. Later he encounters the mysterious Mr. Jelly, whose business causes his charming daughters great anxiety.

The double question of Loftus' disappearance and Mr. Jelly's business taxes Bony's well-known powers of observation and deduction to the utmost, until the two problems are simultaneously solved.
As anyone who knows Arthur Upfield's other work would expect, Mr. Jelly's Business is more than a story of crime and detection: It also offers an admirable picture of life in West Australia's wheat country

My Take

Bony takes on the case of George Loftus' disappearance as a favour to a friend, and gets a job working on the Rabbit Proof Fence so he can keep the locals under observation and work out what has happened to Loftus. Mr Jelly is convinced that Loftus has been murdered by his wife and her lover, but he is surrounded by his own mystery. He gets telegrams that summon him to Perth for at least a week at a time. Given his personal hobby that involves keeping extensive files on murderers, Mr Jelly's daughters are convinced that his job must be something to be ashamed of. Bony promises Mr Jelly's daughters that he will find out what their father does during his absences.

This novel is filled with Upfield's own philosophy about what creates murderers. We also find out a lot about aboriginal tracking methods, as well as more information about Bony's family background.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES
4.4, THE BATTLING PROPHET 

22 September 2016

Review: DIFFERENT CLASS, Joanne Harris

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2131 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (April 21, 2016)
  • Publication Date: April 21, 2016
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B018X1L38A
Synopsis (Amazon)

After thirty years at St Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t fit the mould. A troublemaker. A boy with hidden shadows inside.

A new broom has arrived, bringing Powerpoint, sharp suits and even sixth form girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist this march to the future, a shadow from his past is stirring. A boy who even twenty years on haunts his teacher’s dreams. A boy capable of bad things.

My Take

Although there are roughly 10 years between the publication dates of GENTLEMAN & PLAYERS (2005) and DIFFERENT CLASS (2016), in reality there is only a time lapse of about a year and it would probably pay to read the two in sequence so as to avoid forgetting some bits from the former that are important in the latter.

The theme is similar - Roy Straitley should be preparing for retirement - his main teaching subject Classics appears to be becoming obsolete and he is having to accept female students from a nearby college into his classes. The old Head has retired and a new broom comes in, intent to turn St. Oswald's into a popular and profitable concern. The new Head is an accountant, not teacher trained, and an old boy whom Straitley once taught. And he brings with him a history that Straitley vaguely remembers, events that occurred thirty years earlier, including murder.

I found it fascinating how the author has put her finger so accurately on what modern schooling is bringing to the forefront - the relevance of formerly popular curriculum, the way education systems are being run by accountants rather than educators. Teachers though are still coming from the perspective of personalising knowledge for their pupils and concerning themselves with developing young minds. Straitley is "old school", on the surface peddling knowledge that becoming less relevant to the modern world, but underneath it all still loyal to his students, with their best interests at heart.

And yet at the same time this is crime fiction with threads that weave through a period of 30 years.

Excellent reading.

My Rating: 4.6



I've also read
GENTLEMEN & PLAYERS, my rating 4.8
The new academic year is beginning at St. Oswald’s expensive and exclusive school for boys. Roy Straitley, Classics master, is fighting to survive in a world that sees French and German as more relevant than the Latin he has taught for the last 33 years. The new year brings with it new students and new teachers including one that has got the job on the basis of false credentials. This teacher is dedicated not to the advancement of education at St. Oswald’s, but to bringing St. Oswald’s down. Little things begin to go wrong, a boy nearly dies, Straitley has a heart scare a few weeks before his 65th birthday, and then the stage is set for major catastrophe. It seems very probable Roy will not achieve his “century” and that St. Oswald’s will not survive a series of crises. The plotting in this novel is intricate, the author is determined not to reveal who the pretender is, and then all climaxes on Roy’s birthday. And look out for the little hints: the chapter headings, the chess icons, and the clever play on words.

And Blue eyed boy (rated 4.5)

About the author

JOANNE HARRIS is one of our best loved and most versatile novelists. She first sprung on the scene with the bestselling Chocolat (made into an Oscar-nominated film with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp), which turned into the sensuous, magical Lansquenet trilogy (Lollipop Shoes, Peaches for Monsieur le Curé). She has since written acclaimed novels in diverse genres including historical fiction, fantasy based on Norse myth, and the Malbry cycle of psychological suspense (Gentlemen & Players, Blueeyedboy, and now, Different Class). She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and was awarded an MBE by the Queen. Born in Barnsley, of a French mother and an English father, she spent fifteen years as a teacher before (somewhat reluctantly) becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Yorkshire with her family, plays bass in a band first formed when she was sixteen, works in a shed in her garden, likes musical theatre and old sci-fi, drinks rather too much caffeine, spends far too much time online and occasionally dreams of faking her own death and going to live in Hawaii. 

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin